Work, Community Organizing, and the Prevention of Delinquency
Community organization as a means for delinquency prevention
has been little used in Croatia. This proposed research
will collect data from 150 social workers in both governmental
and non-governmental organizations to discover both their
knowledge and use of community organization theory and practice.
development of theory and practice in the field of prevention
and treatment of delinquency has a prerequisite work on the
analysis of the aetiology of delinquency as well as the phenomenological
aspects of social deviance. In Croatia, in the last few decades
particularly, interest in this area has been considerable.
In a number of published works, (cf. inter alia Vorgoc, 1997,
Kri, 1980, Poldruga1, 1981, Mik saj-Todorovic, 1983, Basic
i Poldrugac, 1985, Singer i Mik saj-Todorovic, 1989, iak i
Basic, 1990, Ajdukovi} 1990, @i~ak i Horvat-Kutle, 1995 i
dr.), one can find a rich array of concepts based both on
empirical research and practical experience. This relationship
between research and practice has been fundamental to many
preventive and treatment programs, and has allowed them to
be based on a rigorous understanding of the causes of delinquency.
Whilst there is clearly, then considerable focus on preventive
work in Croatia, a key important area is almost entirely absent:
work in the local community. Even when this area is explicitly
noted as a cause of delinquency or appears as a component
of preventive programs, it is instantly apparent that important
conceptions about one specific area of work is missing, that
which in social work and social pedagogy is well known as "community organizing."
OF PREVENTIVE WORK
terms, prevention can be defined as aspirations in a specific
society which are aimed at preventing specific events from
happening. Even in the early work in social pedagogy and social
work, prevention was seen as important (Hart 1920; Salomon,
1926). Three different directions of preventive work appeared
then and later:
- A repressive
policy aspect, with the aim of keeping the ordained peace
using a wide mechanism of supervision and control (Glladston,
1980; Singer and Miksaj-Todorovic, 1989).
- A conservative
direction, with the goal of preventing certain problems
from appearing in society through strengthening the ideological
indoctrination of the population (Wichern, 1962), and
- A sociocritical-offensive
direction that brought a dialogue about the social causes
of delinquency into the area of preventive work (Pestalozzi).
The basic features
of these three directions can be found in contemporary approaches
to preventive work. Hence, some work places greater emphasis
on preventive measures aimed at individuals, in terms of strengthening
social control, whereas others focus on the reduction of social
inequality or injustice, thus evening out life chances and
allowing for improved infrastructural choices for families,
children, young people, the disabled, the old, and so on.
We can further divide preventive work, in general terms, on
the basis of three different orientations:
- A clinical-medical
orientation, which sees preventive work as primary, secondary,
- A criminological-sociopathological
orientation, which sees it as general, extra, and specific;
- A combined
approach which divides preventive work into the general
(non-specific), the topological (specific), and the special
in organizing preventive programs show that they are more
and more aimed, at least in basic terms, at disorganized living
arrangements in local communities (cf. German, 1984, Van Dijk
and Van Somerove, 1986, Horvat-Kutle, 1995) and therefore
tend to emphasize tasks such as:
better living and communicating conditions in local communities,
through, for example, better organization of free time for
children and young people, better use of local resources
to ease burdens on families, and stimulating the self-help
potential of the population.
stimulating programs for different groups, particularly
neglected families and groups through stimulating a feeling
of self-worth in the population, making it possible to get
professional qualifications, and so on.
an acceptance of modified models for solving conflicts inside
the family and in wider social networks, through, for example,
developing neighborhood connections, contacts with other
families, and so on.
a change in the ways of working of social and penal/corrective
institutions, through encouraging preventive work, caring
about social network connections of people who exhibit disturbing
behavior, and through support for reintegration into the
a global definition of the whole aetiology and phenomenology
of delinquency is not possible without risking being seen
as delivering "only one opinion". The causes of
the problem of delinquency are always tied to concrete and
specific social systems, cultures, laws, and so on. Although
considerable efforts are made to produce such a global theory,
delinquency is always taking on new shapes, new "goal
groups" appear, and, therefore, also new approaches to
relevant subjects in the areas of preventive work and treatment
are continually developed. Two useful attempts at definitions
see delinquency as "a group name for all those biological,
psychological and social appearances, that more or less attack
individuals and affect negatively and dangerously, other individuals
and social organisms (such as the family, school, children
and young people's other organizations, as well as the wider
community)" (Dobrenic and Poldruga, 1974), or as disturbances
of organic, biological, psychological, or social aetiology
which interfere with the global area of individual or social
adaptation (Kova evic, Stanic and Mejovcek, 1988, Basic and
i ak, 1992). Uzelac (1995) decided to give a more precise
meaning to the term and speaks about disturbances in social
behavior, suggesting that these disturbances go beyond having
an individual character, so that this
or directly, through norms and value systems, connects with
the behavior of other people and society as a system, and
therefore seeks a reaction.
to the aetiology of delinquency develop from, on one side,
biological, medical, psychiatric, and psychological points
of view. For example, on one side, concepts of moreal madness
(Prichard); psychopathological inferiority (Koch); a theory
of reflexes (Pavlov); behavior theory (Watson); theory about
sociopaths (Patridge, Birnbaum, etc.); and on the other side,
out of sociological approaches, such as the theory of deviant
behavior (Brown, Queen, Gruener, Lenert, Clinard); the theory
of social disorganization (Eliot, Merill, Faris); and from
new attempts to found a more complex approach (Separovic,
to delinquency in social pedagogy and social work are often
closest to the interactionist position, referring to the stigmatization
or so-called labeling approach (Becker, 1973, Goffman, 1967,
Sack, 1973). This approach looks at reactions to behavior
and suggest that delinquency is not a quality that acts have
per se, but is given meaning by the interaction between a
person who acts in a particular way and others who react to
him or her. As a specific variant of the labeling approach
and important area is the so called etnomethodological approach
(Bohnsack, 1973 et al).
Interest for this
approach within social pedagogy and social work can be traced
in a wide spectrum of theoretical and practical work dealing
with a range of social problems in concrete societies. From
the beginnings of these disciplines, this approach to working
with problems of delinquency has always been a very important
area of interest, particularly in the USA and in European
community organizing in some countries, especially the USA,
England, and the Netherlands, has assumed a great importance
in different aspects of social work. Clarifying its meaning
involves paying attention to both parts of this term - community
and organizing. The term community can be used in many different
ways to cover various phenomena. In the English-speaking community
it is used very often on its own, as well as in terms such
as school community; community as part of a town, or the national
community. It is used similarly in the German-speaking regions
where terms like Germeinde, Gemeinschaft or Gemeinwesen are
Under the term
community, we basically understand two different dimensions.
One is determined geographically, and the other one through
social relations. Exploring community has a relatively long
history, and some of the most important contributions to discussion
about community were provided by F. Tonnies, I. Sanders and
G. A. Hillery who analyzed 94 different definitions. One definition
sees it as a clear self-soul-psychic connection in terms of
a tight sense of social connections (Koenig, 1955).
In the same way,
the term organization can mean two different things. On one
side organization means formal organization such as institutions,
corporations, and the like. The term community organizing
often refers, then, to some formal organization that fulfills
different functions, in and for a community, such as the social
services, public organizations, and so on. On the other side
organization refers to the possibility of cooperative organizing
in some community, including all activities aimed at achieving
some form of co-operation between individuals and groups that
share specific goals.
THEORY OF COMMUNITY
ORGANIZING IN SOCIAL WORK
As a basis
for understanding community organizing, Oelschlagel (1983)
notes a number of characteristics:
- Community organizing
is aimed at one community and takes as its subject the whole
neighborhood , city quarter, or local community.
- Problems are
not defined as things which refer only to an individual
or one group, but something whose definition and solution
necessitates a relation with a wider system.
- Community organizing
integrates different methods not only of social work or
social pedagogy (such as individual work, group work, therapy,
but also political action such as demonstrations,
public conventions or empirical research in the form of
- Community organizing
is normally undertaken in cooperation with various supporters
with goals of achieving cooperation and organizing a 'local
- Community organizing
involves an element of competition between various goal
groups with the aim of each one activating its own power.
- The primary
points of community organizing are social conflicts which
indicate the preventive function of community organizing.
Therefore, community organizing is intimately connected
with the daily experiences of people in local areas.
A number of authors
have elaborated on what "community organizing" is.
Some believe that it is some kind of third method of social
work (Mesle, 1978 and others), others think it is about a
process (Ross, 1955), still others see it as a new principle
of social work (Boulet, and associates 1980). Some authors,
like Yale (1983), use the paradigm of indirect intervention
instead of community organizing and therefore put the community
in the area of "macro-practice" to distinguish it
from "micro" and "meso-practice".
A certain difference of view can be seen in various theoretical
concepts of work in community organizing. In different countries,
many different theoretical concepts have been developed; only
mentioning some leads us to a variety of approaches: the community
organizing concept of the welfare state; the integrative concept
(Ross, 1955), the aggressive concept (Mueller and Nimmermann,
1971), the catalytic-activating concept (Hauser, 1971, Seippel,
1976, Karas and Hinte 1978) the Alinski concept (Alinski,
1971), and the concept of work in milieu (Ebbe and Friese,
1989). Each of the above mentioned concepts accept some kind
of common base in terms of transferring the area of work to
the level of the local community, but outline many different
goals, techniques, strategies, and ideological stances.
One area of a large measure of agreement is the issue of the
progression or work in the community. This is often represented
in terms of five phases:
- problem definition
- goal selection
- structure building
- action taking
Even here, however,
authors diverge when defining the roles and tasks of community
organizers. Some frequently mentioned roles are: communicator,
interpreter, negotiator, mediator, lawyer, supervisor, activator,
charismatic leader, social therapist, and broker.
We have already shown how the term delinquency is often used
indifferent theoretical and research writings. Sometimes,
the accent is on the "local community" as wider
aetiological frame. Whilst the local community has its own
qualities, it also has the possibility to become an active
factor in delinquency prevention. The community has a psychological
dimension which accrues through commonly accepted norms, values,
needs, and interests. Furthermore, community has its geographical
dimension since it represents a definite, distinct area that
people live in together. It also has a political dimension,
because usually it has its own laws and institutions. Finally,
it has its sociological dimension, which includes a combination
of psychological and geographical meanings of community, and
refers to the mutuality of interests and kinds of relationships
that people can have in terms of common living.
All these dimensions together still do not make a community
of connecting factors such as social interaction, cooperation
within the area, or common relations between people and institutions
do not exist. Together with other factors, the non-existence
of these elements allow us to speak about the
or disorganized community.
PROBLEMS AND GOALS OF RESEARCH
The argument in this paper is that, to this point, in Croatia,
too little attention has been paid to the real preventive
aspects of community organizing in the area of delinquency.
Supporters of preventive programs, be they theoretical or
practical, still have a lack of information and practical
experience in community organizing. For many years, the theoretical-practical
development of community organizing inside the social work
discipline - in Germany also in social pedagogy - resulted
in relatively rich perceptions decanted into specifically
shaped modes of working.
The main goal of the research presented here is to examine
the historical development of social work and social pedagogy
to address the development of preventive models in areas of
delinquency, paying particular attention to community organizing.
This basic goal is realized through a wide-ranging theoretical
analysis of existing modes and approaches in community organizing,
and through seeking elements for establishing an authentic
preventive modes for Croatian conditions.
In addition, particular field research is being carried out,
collecting data about knowledge and use of some of the fundamentals
of community organizing by Centers for Social Work, and some
other social and humanitarian organizations in different Croatian
cities. Analysis of this data will allow a better insight
into the existing situation. It will also as well as provide
useful plans for a preventive work program of delinquency
on the principles of community organizing.
The sample of social workers and others who work in social
work centers in various Croatian towns, and in other social
and humanitarian organizations, should shed light on the existing
situation of using and knowing about the basic theoretical
-practical fundamentals of community organizing as a specific
preventive approach in the area of delinquency.
In this sense, the main research goals are:
- To examine
the level of knowledge base (theoretical -practical) of
the fundamentals of community organizing.
- To determine
who is involved in community organizing work.
- To check with
those involved which have programs of delinquency prevention
based on community organizing
- To find out
the attitudes regarding the preventive aspects of community
organizing in the field of delinquency.
- To explore
differences in attitudes about preventive aspects of community
organizing in delinquency by workers in governmental and
- To examine
the relationship between the degree of knowledge about basic
community organizing, attitudes about it, and its use in
-- THE SAMPLE
Because most preventive social work in Croatia is still
carried out by various governmental institutions and organisations,
and because the staff who work in these institutions have
the biggest influence on the creation of such programs, most
of the samples are social workers and other from these institutions
(mainly Centers for Social Work). The sample will be drawn
from the city of Zagreb and from other Croatian towns, as
well as from four of the biggest domestic humanitarian (nongovernmental)
organizations. The sample will be some 150 people in total.
We expect the results from this sample to enable the realization
of the research goals, and to contribute to a conception of
suggestions for the future.
RESEARCH METHODS -- INSTRUMENTS AND VARIABLES
As we have mentioned before, in Croatian conditions too little
attention is paid to the organizing of
local community as
a factor in delinquency prevention work. This has implications
not only in insufficiently established practical models of
work, but also in the inadequately developed theoretical and
research traditions. Consequently, it is simply not possible
to find real instruments which could be applied and used for
these types of samples.
For the needs of this research , therefore, new instruments
have been develop, which will try to give answers to our questions.
A questionnaire has been produced, consisting of three groups
- Variable s
which refer to knowledge of the theoretical fundamentals
in community organizing.
- Variables which
refer to the use of community organizing in general practice
and in the specific area of preventive work in delinquency.
- Variable which
refer to the attitudes of our sample regarding the preventive
aspects of community organizing in the field of delinquency.
-- METHOD OF DATA COLLECTING
the data, on the basis of the constructed questionnaire, specially
educated and instructed examiners will take part and visit
all the examined people to ask for cooperation from all of
--ARTICULATION OF RESULTS
that this kind of methodoligical frame in research will enable
us to glean some important information about the current situation
of community organizing in Croatia. The research should be
a stimulus for the further development of methods of community
organizing which from existing information, clearly are not
The big question
is how far the knowledge about community organizing methods,
which are taught to students of social work in Zagreb, is
really useful in practice. Because the domestic literature
from this area of social work is really poor - only one book
and a few articles - most of the knowledge about community
organizing that students learn is from other countries of
Europe and the USA. The area of community organizing in inextricably
connected to a whole series of specialities of local organizing
in particular states, sos that experiences from one country
can never be satisfactory for the situation of another country.
Some European countries, such as Germany, found that knowledge
from the 1960's USA context could not be uncritically transferred.
Some twenty to thirty years later, the same thing is happening
That is why it
is very important to develop empirical research and other
approaches, to record the real situation with regard to community
organizing in Croatia, and to set up the fundamentals for
the further development of this part of social work here in
Croatia. This is important not only because of the theoretical
improvement of socialw ork generally or community organizing
specifically, but also because of the general socio-economic
conditions in contemporary Croatia.
The last six years,
much of it in war, brought many social problems, among which
delinquency received significant attention. Programs of preventing
delingquency must be organized and conducted on the level
of local community. We expect that in Croatia in the future,
with a rise in social standards, ne kinds of delinquency will
also appear. With the development of new technology, and opening
up of Croatia to the world, and the process of globalization,
the problem of delinquency cannot be neglected.
Since it is clear
that the local community has a special role to play in preventing
delinquency, it will be necessary constantly to update and
improve the quality of education as well as the practice of
community organizing in social work. This research is one
step in that direction. It should give answers to some specific
questions about the conditions of community organizing, but
should also be a stimulus for thinking more about community
organizing and getting ideas for new working models.
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